Whitefish MT to Lake McDonald MT
Travel Time 12 hrs
Saddle time 7:15
8586 ft climbed
You don’t have to bike here, but you must come to Glacier National Park. Today I only got a small taste of it, but it is spectacular!
I started off early. As difficult as it was to leave The Lockwood Chalet, I just couldn’t sleep because I was anxious not knowing what the story was with climbing Going to the Sun Road. I know it is closed at some pt, and I won’t be able to do the route that takes you thru the park, up into Canada and then back into MT. But I had heard you could still bike GTS road to the top, Logan’s Pass, and then turn around and retrace your route out of the park. The people at the bike store had said you can go up after the snow plow team leaves around 5, but I couldn’t get confirm on this. So I biked 30 miles to the entrance of the park.
The rangers at the entrance said the road is closed at Avalanche, which is at base of mtn. He also reminded me that cyclists had to be off GTS between 11-4. I biked into park and stopped at the Lake McDonald lodge to see if I could get the straight scoop from someone that would know the reality. I accosted a cool looking young maintenance dude and he said you can bike past Avalanche all the way up to The Loop (halfway up), but he wasn’t sure about past that. He also informed me that the park was now allowing their shuttle buses to go past Avalanche up to The Loop to drop off tourists. It was 10:15 and I knew I could get to Avalanche by 11 and I hoped they would let me continue cycling by since the only vehicles on rd would be their shuttles.
I got to Avalanche and they let me by, but the ranger said I would have to stop at the loop. I went a couple hundred yards up the road and pulled over to eat lunch. I also hid my panniers and xs stuff in the woods to get it on my return. I packed warm clothing for the climb and descent and I kept all my food with me (lesson learned from Soggy Duck trip #20, Texas- Colorado River ).
I biked up to the loop and saw that when the tourists got off the vans, many were hiking up the road further. So I biked right by and kept climbing. It was amazing. Except for a few hikers, there was no one else on the mtn. I was climbing climbing climbing and I had the whole road to myself. And it was a good thing because I don’t like heights and this was a very narrow road with almost no railing on the cliff side. And with no one on the road I could stop and take pictures when I wanted. All the vista points were empty. It was surreal. But then I went around a turn I hit a brick wall.
About 3/4 up the mtn there was a sign that stopped everyone. You could see the road construction happening up above and this is where you had to stop.
I was standing there alone for about a minute when a ranger pulled up and asked if I had hid my gear down by Avalanche. I guess I didn’t do a good job camouflaging it. He had the gear with him, so since I was going to go downhill from here, I took all my stuff back. But while he was there I asked him about the rumors I had heard that after 5 I could bike past these signs to the pass. He called on his radio but couldn’t get an answer, but he did say he thinks that is true. So it was 1 pm and I had to decide what to do.
I sat and rested and figured I had come this far, I would just wait it out. I couldn’t let Libbie and Ron Cypers down. So I sat down on the side of the road and started studying my maps for the next few days travel.
A little while later a family showed up and also a retired couple. And a bit after that, one of the construction guys drove down. He confirmed that when they are done, they remove the sign and we are good to go. He also said they usually end around 3:30.
The father of the family was a mailman, and just like Cliffy, he knew everything. So he educated the rest of us on the mtn ranges around us, and we all told stories until 3:30 when we were good to go. They started walking and I cycled past them. It was an unbelievable feeling knowing I was the only one climbing to the top of this famous pass. While the visibility was getting worse, I still would prefer this experience over a crowded sunny summer day. As I climbed the snow banks got higher and higher. Rock debris became more and more frequent in the road. And visibility was dropping to a few hundred feet. And there was no railing now, because the crews remove them for snow plowing. I was starting to think that doing this solo was stupid. I started going over in my head the 127 hour movie. I had left my surplus gear at that last stop with a note about where I was going, and I really started wondering whether that would be the last evidence of me. I’m not trying to be over dramatic, but I started realizing that something could go wrong with my bike, or there could be another avalanche, and Cliffy had said we would see lots of wild animals at the top. I was not feeling comfortable, but I pushed on.
I finally made the pass (6,646 ft) just as the rain started coming hard. I quickly changed into dry clothing to keep me warm for the descent and I headed down. Now the wind really picked up, the rain was pelting me, and I was heading fast (not too fast) down around these turns. I kept hoping I would catch up to the other groups quickly. It turns out, they all turned around when the rain hit, but I finally did catch up to them. And the lower and lower I got, the warner it was and the rain disappeared.
I made it to my gear, reloaded it on my bike and decided I deserved to stay at the Lake McDonald Lodge. I got the last room (really) and quickly took a very hot shower
There is very weak wifi here and no cell service. I don’t even know if this post will go thru, but I know I can’t send the great pics from today. Sorry, but you will have to wait.
Tomorrow I will go over Marias Pass which will be the last of the Rockies and the last of major hills until PA